Friday, April 26, 2013

We are all Gil Student

So goes a DovBear post, in support of Rabbi Gil Student of Hirhurim. He makes some good points.

The background is firstly the scandal or 'scandal' involving false personas created by Rabbi Michael Broyde, exposed by Steven I. Weiss. Then, The Trusty Shovel (a reference to the Devarim 23:13, because it serves similar purpose) had an article attacking Rabbi Gil Student and "Mr." [sic] Harry Maryles for attacking chareidim for their scandals but offering defenses or only muted criticism of Rabbi Broyde. You can see Rabbi Student's letter to the editor about this and the authors response here.

I think that the Yated article was wrong to attack Rabbi Student, because indeed, Hirhurim is NOT at all what they allege it to be. (Emes veEmunah is another story, in that it at least actually does often criticize chareidim as well as various chareidi rabbis.)

On the other hand, perhaps some of the criticism in the original Yated article is correct, but better directed at me, and other bloggers of this tier.

I am not talking about the likes of Failed Messiah, which reports all such scandals equally. Rather, I am talking about those who take the middle ground.

On occasion, I have criticized certain rabbinic figures or even random chareidim for lapses or scandals. For instance, I called attention to that fellow who refused to help his wife give birth, instead flagging down a truck driver to perform the delivery. I called that fellow a chassid shoteh, I still think to make a point. Or I called attention to Baba Eleazar's quite likely being a con artist who preyed on vulnerable innocent Jews, and decried the religious culture that let people like this operate with impunity. Or I pointed out that Rav Kanievsky believes that Jews and gentiles have a different number of teeth, for the sake of pointing out that we should not necessarily give weight to positions of chareidi Gedolim when it comes to matters involving the intersection of science and halacha. Or the rabbi in Israel who thinks that he caused the previous Pope to resign. Other times, I may read articles in the secular press about chareidim and not think very kindly of them.

Yet the criticism and exposure of Rabbi Michael Broyde pained me. Not because I really agree with his ideological positions, or his halachic methodology. I am not sure that I do.

Rather, I am a lot more ambivalent about the exposure of this scandal. I don't think that it was a good thing that Steven I. Weiss did, ruining (directly or indirectly, as he would prefer to frame) Rabbi Broyde's position in the name of a scoop. I think that what Rabbi Broyde did was stupid and immature, like much of conversations which happen on the Internet, but that it was not really harming anyone.

Similarly, many of the "scandals" involving Rav Schachter, such as the most recent one, which was publicized by an ignorant journalist who entirely missed Rav Schachter's intent (that one should report child molesters even if it falls under the category of mesirah for reason X; the journalist put it as that one should not report child molesters because it is mesirah for reason X). And then various liberal touchy-feely rabbis write articles distancing themselves from him and in that way puff themselves up. And I don't think very kindly of the journalists in question.

In these instances, I think I have a more nuanced position. But this was perhaps the Yated article's main point. Cross out Hirhurim (where it is not true) and put in parshablog, and cross out Rabbi Student (where it is not true) and put in Rabbi Waxman:

I think I have a good rejoinder to this, about my selection and purpose. But still, at its core, the author's point is not so dumb. It is asking where the nuance is in regard to chareidim, and where is the achdus when it comes to chareidim?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

YUTorah on parashat Emor

parsha banner

Audio Shiurim on Emor
Articles on Emor
Parsha Sheets on Emor
Rabbi Jeremy WiederLaining for Parshat Emor
See all shiurim on YUTorah for Parshat Emor
New This Week

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Strange praise

From Nedarim 62a:
רבא רמי כתיב ועבדך ירא את ה' מנעוריו וכתיב (משלי כז, ב) יהללך זר ולא פיך הא באתרא דידעי ליה הא באתרא דלא ידעי ליה
Rava contrasted. It is written (in I Melachim 18:12): 'And [I] your servant [Ovadiah, speaking to Eliyahu] feared God from his youth.' And it is written (in Mishlei 27:2), 'A stranger should praise you and not your own mouth.' [Resolving the contradiction]: Here is where he is known, and here is where he is not known.
Nowadays, through the wonders of the Internet, we have another option, of praising oneself through a stranger, where one is not otherwise known.

Does Ach only mean 'but'? Does it ever?

In parshas Emor, we are told about Yom Kippur:
On the word ach, Rashi writes:
But: Heb. אַךְ. Wherever the word אַךְ, “but,” or רַק, “only,” appear in the Torah, they denote an exclusion. [Thus,] Yom Kippur atones for those who repent, “but” it does not atone for those who do not repent. — [Shev. 13a]
This is obviously a derasha rather than simple peshat. Because nowhere would we think to exclude some subset of the people. If anything, we would think only on Yom Kippur do we get atonement but not on other days.
More than that, the word Ach does not really mean this in Biblical Hebrew. Rather it means achein, “indeed”. It only means an exclusion in Mishnaic Hebrew. But then Chazal took the meaning of Ach in their days and used it to interpret Biblical verses.
Ramban makes a similar, but not identical point. He writes at length on this subject, as below. To quicly summarize, first he shows how ach is midrashically understood in this manner across many pesukim. And some of them read rather compellingly in this manner. For example, when Aharon and Miriam criticize Moshe, they say harak ach beMoshe. Or forgive my sin ach this time. But, he notes, in reality, ach does not mean that in any of these cases, but means achein, “indeed”, “surely”, as an intensifier. And if you spend time analyzing each instance, you will understand how it works out in each case.
The slight difference between what Ramban said and what I am saying is possibly whether Ach could mean “only” or “but” in Biblical Hebrew, or whether it is a retrojection of meaning. Because as derash, alongside the peshat, one may select an improbable meaning. Here is Ramban; read it and then I’ll proceed.
(כז): אך בעשור לחדש - 
כל אכין ורקין שבתורה מעוטין, מכפר הוא על השבים ואינו מכפר על שאינן שבים, לשון רש"י מדברי רבותינו (שבועות יג א). 
ואם כן יהיה טעם הכתוב כי באחד לחודש יהיה לכם לכולכם יום זיכרון תרועה שתהיו כולכם נדונין לפניו, אך יהיה למקצתכם בעשור לחדש הזה יום הכיפורים. וה נה הוא כטעם "בלבד", וכן שא נא חטאתי אך הפעם (שמות י יז), וכן הרק אך במשה (במדבר יב ב), הבלבד במשה, וכן אך בחמשה עשר יום לחודש השביעי (פסוק לט), יאמר בלבד בחמשה עשר תחוגו את חג ה' שבעת ימים, לא רצופים, שאין חגיגה דוחה שבת. ובדרך הזה תפרשנו בכל המצוות כפי קבלת רבותינו. וכמוהו אך טרף טרף (בראשית מד כח), שלא נעשה בו עניין אחר לבד הטרף. וכן כי היו בני ישראל ובני יהודה אך עושים הרע בעיני מנעורותיהם כי בני ישראל אך מכעיסים אותי (ירמיה לב ל), שלא יעשו דבר אחר.
ועל דרך הפשט, "אך" טעמו "אכן" לאמת העניין, אכן נודע הדבר (שמות יב יד), אכן כאדם תמותון (תהילים פב ז). אכן בעשור לחודש יום הכיפורים הוא הבטחה באמיתת העניין, יאמר, באחד לחודש יום הדין אמנם בעשור לחודש יום כיפורים על כן תענו את נפשותיכם וכל מלאכה לא תעשו. וכן אך עצמי ובשרי אתה (בראשית כט יד), אך מלך ישראל הוא (מ"א כב לב), אך טוב לישראל אלוהים לברי לבב (תהילים עג א). וכן פירוש "אך את שבתותי תשמורו" (שמות לא יב), הנה ציוויתי אתכם במלאכת המשכן אכן את שבתותי תשמרו לעולם, וכן כולם יתפרשו לך בדרך הזה אם תשכיל בהם.

Finally, here is something to consider. What is Onkelos’ position? Does he say like the Midrash or like Ramban’s peshat?

He said beram, which usually people take to mean “but”. However, look at Jastrow on this:

See how sometimes it can mean “besides”, “however”, and “only”, but sometimes it can be an interjection meaning “surely”.
So we cannot definitively conclude on this basis. I would guess though that Onkelos is saying like Rambam’s peshat, rather than changing from the peshat to say like a midrash of Chazal.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The parameters of charum

In Emor we read that a charum cannot function as a kohen.
What is this blemish? Rashi writes:
with a sunken nose: Heb. חָרֻם. [This term means] that his nose is sunken between his two eyes, such that he applies [eye shadow to] his two eyes with one stroke [i.e., his nose is so sunken that its bridge does not intercede between the two eyes]. — [Torath Kohanim 21:48; Bech. 43b]

חרם: שחוטמו שקוע בין שתי העינים, שכוחל שתי עיניו כאחת:

Ramban notes that this is actually a machlokes in both the gemara in Bechoros and in the Sifra, and the Chachamim there say the nose need not be recessed that much:
יח): חרם או שרוע - 
כל שחוטמו שקוע בין שתי העיניים שכחל שתי עיניו כאחת, לשון רש"י. 

ובתורת כוהנים (פרשה ג ז) ובגמרא דבכורות (מג ב): שנינו: 
חרום שחוטמו שקוע. 
חוטמו בלום חוטמו סולד חוטמו נוטף מניין? 
תלמוד לומר: או חרום. 
אבא יוסי אומר: אין חרום אלא הכחל שתי עיניו כאחת, 
אמרו לו הפלגת, אע"פ שאינו יכול לכחול שתי עיניו כאחת. 
ולשון "חרום", מלשון כל חרם אשר יחרם (להלן כז כט), והחרמתי את עריהם (במדבר כא ב), עניין חרבן, ויקרא חרום, כי החוטם הדרת פנים, כמו שאמרו (יבמות קכ א): אין מעידין אלא על פרצוף פנים עם החוטם, ואשר אין חוטמו כתאר בני האדם צורתו חרבה.

Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi is troubled by this selection of the yachid position over the rabbim. He writes that he doesn’t know what compels Rashi to select the yachid position:
Gur Aryeh tries to answer this:
He points out that the machlokes mentioned in the gemara is in a brayta, but that the stam Mishna is like this solitary position. And see the supercommentary on Gur Aryeh there where they quote Nachlas Yaakov who quotes Yevamos 42b that if the Mishna is stam and there is machlokes in a braysa, the halacha is like the stam Mishna.
He also gives another, less convincing answer that in this situation, the fellow is certain considered charum.
I agree that it certainly makes for a more striking and memorable definition of this particular blemish, whereas just the word shakua (recessed) is not something that a person would readily understand. The painting of both eyes at once gives a very good visual.
Is it possible that Rashi just went for the simple explanation as found in the Mishna? Perhaps. But see how he is continuously referencing Toras Kohanim (Sifra) throughout his running commentary.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Kedoshim: the glory of a face is its beard

In the middle of Kedoshim, we encounter the pasuk of Mipnei Seiva Takum:
I merited to fulfill this mitzvah today. Though my foot is hurting from standing and walking too much, I gave up my subway seat to an elderly Chinese woman.
The translation of this pasuk is:
לב  מִפְּנֵי שֵׂיבָה תָּקוּם, וְהָדַרְתָּ פְּנֵי זָקֵן; וְיָרֵאתָ מֵּאֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֲנִי ה.  {ס}
32 Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and thou shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD. {S}
Focusing on וְהָדַרְתָּ פְּנֵי זָקֵן, I’d like to point out that it is a probable source for the famous statement of הדרת פנים זקן, hadras panim zakan, that the glory of the face is a beard. It is a derasha of revocalization.
How seriously should we take this? Not very, for two reasons.
First, it was used as an attack between a “baldy” and a eunuch trading insults, namely between Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha and a heretic. People sometimes say extreme statements when trying to insult one another, but in the real world in which people live, we don’t take those extreme statements seriously.
א"ל ההוא גוזאה לר' יהושע בן קרחה מהכא לקרחינא כמה הוי א"ל כמהכא לגוזניא א"ל צדוקי ברחא קרחא בארבעה אמר ליה עיקרא שליפא בתמניא חזייה דלא סיים מסאניה א"ל דעל סוס מלך דעל חמור בן חורין ודמנעלי בריגלוהי בר איניש דלא הא ולא הא דחפיר וקביר טב מיניה א"ל גוזא גוזא תלת אמרת לי תלת שמעת הדרת פנים זקן שמחת לב אשה (תהלים קכז, ג) נחלת ה' בנים ברוך המקום שמנעך מכולם א"ל קרחא מצויינא אמר ליה עיקרא שליפא תוכחה
Or, in English:
A certain eunuch [gawzaah] said to R. Joshua b. Karhah [Baldhead]: 'How far is it from here to Karhina [Baldtown]? 'As far as from here to Gawzania [Eunuchtown],' he replied.15  Said the Sadducee to him, 'A bald buck is worth four denarii.' 'A goat, if castrated, is worth eight,' he retorted. Now, he [the Sadducee] saw that he [R. Joshua] was not wearing shoes, [whereupon] he remarked, 'He [who rides] on a horse is a king, upon an ass, is a free man, and he who has shoes on his feet is a human being; but he who has none of these, one who is dead16  and buried is better off.' 'O eunuch, O eunuch,' he retorted, 'you have enumerated three things to me, [and now] you will hear three things: the glory of a face is its beard; the rejoicing of one's heart is a wife; the heritage of the Lord is children;17  blessed be the Omnipresent, Who has denied you all these!' 'O quarrelsome baldhead,' he jeered at him. 'A castrated buck and [you will] reprove!'18  he retorted.
The three things Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha listed were things which a eunuch cannot have. Presumably the lack of testosterone means no beard growth.
While we say here that the glory of the face is the beard, when learning through Yerushalmi, I found a parallel statement. Unfortunately, I can’t find it at the moment to pinpoint its location.
But the statement in Yerushalmi is that the male pattern baldness is similarly a glory and crown for the head:
Yet we don’t see people hoping nowadays to look like Vezzini, or writing books blasting those who have a full head of hair. (This is also caused by testosterone, I think.)
Look at the Sifra on this pasuk, and the meforshim on this pasuk, where the question is whether this honor applies to every old person, or just to Torah scholars who are referred to as elders. There are opinions both ways.
There is a danger of focusing purely on externalities, though one must admit that not having a beard is usually (in the case of non-eunuchs) a matter of choice.
There is also this wonderful quote / epigram from  Joseph Solomon Delmedigo:
if men are judged wise by their beards and their girth, then goats were the wisest of creatures on earth[19]

This is what he looked like:

Posts so far for parshat Kedoshim

1. YU Torah on Kedoshim.

2. If you shave with scissors (or an electric shaver), cow-shaped demons will trample on the corners of your beard. A story involving R' Yehuda HaChassid.

3. Kedoshim Tihyu: Is the holiness asceticism or mitzvah fulfillment? And the many roles of Ani Hashem Elokeichem .Does Kedoshim Tihyu refer backwards (to Arayos) or forwards (to the Aseres HaDibros)? Also, dual parsings of Ki Kadosh Ani | Hashem Elokeichem, helping establish the idea that each instance of Ani Hashem Elokeichem can function in a unique manner.


1. YUTorah on parshat Kedoshim

2. Kedoshim sources -- even further expanded.

3. Who was the Shifcha CharufaIs she only not fully redeemed? Or is she actually completely a maidservant? What is bothering Ibn Caspi? We can look to Shadal, I think

4. Review of a new translation of Shadal's perush on Chumash. By analyzing the translation / supercommentary on parashat Kedoshim. Not a very favorable review.


  1. Kedoshim sources -- further expanded. For example, many more meforshei Rashi.
  2. YUTorah on parashat Kedoshim
  3. The meaning of שנאמרה פרשה זו בהקהל --  Somewhat obstinately, I insist on a strange yet straightforward meaning of this phrase. How can we square this with contrary halacha and with the text of the pesukim?
  4. Et zachar vs. Ve'et zachar --  Another analysis of the absence or presence of a leading vav. In this instance, our Masoretic text is supported by the Samaritan text.
  5. Why does Onkelos translate Yid'oni as Zechuru?  Though it might be obvious for those who like Hebrew puns, why the zayin? And why the mismatch, against the famous derasha of Chazal?


  1. Kedoshim sources -- revamped, with more than 100 meforshim on the parasha and haftara.
  2. Do Chazal darshen the Samaritan version of Vayikra 20:7In parashat Kedoshim, yet another instance in which a derashat Chazal matches the Samaritan text of the Chumash instead of our Masoretic text. In this instance, however, it is somewhat plausible that Chazal are merely darshening the union of two similar pesukim; and that the Samaritans, as is their wont, harmonized the two similar pesukim. Still, after considering Minchas Shai, Gra, a few suggestions of my own, and considering Talmudic variants, I conclude that Chazal were once again darshening a non-Masoretic text.

  1. Kedoshim sources -- links by aliyah and perek to an online Mikraos Gedolos, plus a slew of commentary on parsha and haftara.
  2. Shaving as specifically for a meis, as peshat in the pesukim in Kedoshim and Emor. And some backup to this idea in Yeshaya and in Herodotus.
  3. And even more evidence to this, from Iyov and Yirmeyahu.
  4. Dechuru or Zechuru in Onkelos, and why I think that despite Ohev Ger about the daled/zayin alternation, Zechuru with a daled in Aramaic is correct.
  1. Do not curse the deaf, as literal vs. idiomatic, and a comparison to lifnei iver.
  2. Rabbenu Bachya, Sefirot, and Elim: distinguishing between worshipping Sefirot and worshipping other forces, where the power does not come from themselves.
  1. Anachronism In Midrash
    • in which there are various opinions as to how Avraham knew a certain detail of milah (namely, what to circumcise). And one midrashic opinion which questions whether Avraham would be cognizant of midrashic methods such as gezeira shava.
  2. Loving your neighbor as yourself, and how it is not just a nice platitude, but rather has halachic effect. A beautiful Yerushalami on it. Also, the difference between Hillel's statement and Rabbi Akiva's statement, and other sources and manifestations of this idea.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kedoshim Tihyu: Is the holiness asceticism or mitzvah fulfillment? And the many roles of Ani Hashem Elokeichem.

Summary: Does Kedoshim Tihyu refer backwards (to Arayos) or forwards (to the Aseres HaDibros)? Also, dual parsings of Ki Kadosh Ani | Hashem Elokeichem, helping establish the idea that each instance of Ani Hashem Elokeichem can function in a unique manner.
Post: Scan through these pesukim in the beginning of parshas Kedoshim in a Mikraos Gedolos first.

1) Consider the words “Kedoshim Tihyu” in pasuk 2. What does this mean? It is a machlokes between Rashi and Ibn Ezra. Rashi says look back, Ibn Ezra says look forwards.
Rashi d”h kedoshim tihyu says look back, meaning even though this is a new sidra, this Kedoshim Tihyu is a summary of what preceded. So look back to the end of Acharei Mos and see the discussion of Arayos. And realize, based on various prooftexts, that in general Kadosh means Parush, separating.

Meanwhile, Ibn Ezra says look forwards. You might have thought to say like Rashi that staying away from Arayos was sufficient to let you stay in the land. Therefore it tells us in the beginning of this new Sidra a bunch of other mitzvos required to stay in the land.
And these mitzvos correspond to the aseres hadibros. And this pasuk of Ki Kadosh Ani Hashem Elokeichem corresponds to the first of the 10 commandments, namely Anochi Hashem Elokecha. (This according to the many who hold that Anochi Hashem Elokecha is the first commandment of the 10, rather than it being an introduction, with Lo Yihyeh Lecha being the first and the two lo sachmods being the final two commandments).
Ibn Ezra lists how these map, but you can scan the pesukim and spot the obvious ones. For instance, pasuk 3 has two dibros, of Kibud Av VaEm and Shabbos. And pasuk 4 has the commandment against idolatry.
Perhaps we can take this machokes as to how Kedoshim Tihyu binds and arrive at a philosophical nafka mina, as to what makes one Kadosh. Is it asceticism or is it performing the mitzvos?
2) The next fun part of the pasuk is “Ki Kadosh Ani Hashem Elokeichem”.
It messes with our minds. Should it be Ani Hashem Elokeichem, like the instances both beforehand in Acharei Mos and afterwards in Kodeshim? After all, that is how every segment is concluded. Look at the end of pasuk 3 and pasuk 4.
Or should it be Ki Kadosh Ani? After all, we are giving a reason for Kedoshim Tihyu, and so this is imitatio Dei, to emulate God. Mah uh kadosh a fata kadosh. Certainly this is the peshat and purpose in this pasuk, because otherwise (if Ani Hashem Elokeichem works alone) the pasuk does not read straight, with Ki Kadosh Ani going to nothing.
So it is “for holy am I YKVK your God.”
But still, we are tugged in two directions at once, to both parsing, and both messages are meant to be sent.
Given this deliberate play on Ani Hashem Elokeichem, we can grant credence to the various local meanings attributed by various meforsim to each Ani Hashem Elokeichem. For instance, Ibn Ezra here that it maps to Anochi Hashem Elokecha of the Aseres Hadibros.
Or in pasuk 3, with the juxtaposition of kibud av with Shabbos, to inform to disregard your father’s command to violate Shabbos. Why? Rashi explain that Ani Hashem, and so both you and your father are obligated in My Honor.

See in each place how the meforshim interpret it.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin